Last Updated: January 14, 2013, 9:45 am

‘Gangster Squad’ forgettable if not for ’40s theme


Unruly mobsters, sexy dames, rogue cops and L.A. noir—“Gangster Squad” has it all. 

But for all the endless violence, scantily clad burlesque dancers, and dreamy Ryan Gosling stares, there was one thing that really made me love this film: the era.

This movie could have been made with the exact same plot starring the exact same people in modern times, but it probably would have fallen by the wayside in terms of remembrance.

The story follows Sgt. John O’Mara, played by a stone-faced Josh Brolin, who is fed up with the antics of a Chicago gangster who’s decided to plant roots in Los Angeles. The cliché gangster is Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen—your run-of-the-mill ‘40s-era mob boss who has no temper control and a penchant to shoot the messenger.

Police Chief Parker, brought to life by the gravelly-voiced Nick Nolte, charges O’Mara with a task: take down Cohen covertly. He tells O’Mara to fight fire with fire and use guerilla warfare to destroy the mob’s business without the use of the L.A. Police Department.

So O’Mara starts recruiting the underdogs. Again, it’s another cliché. He brings in a party boy sergeant with a heart of gold, an old-timey gunslinger who has a Mexican sidekick, a tech genius with a wife and kids, and a black beat cop who hates drug dealers. 

So basically, it’s the cast of “Community” fighting old-timey crooks film noir style. 

If this were set in 2013, I think “Gangster Squad” would have been just another buddy cop movie. But because of its Hollywood setting, we got to hear Gosling say things like, “Who’s the tomato?” and Emma Stone say seductively, “I bet you’ve got a ducky war story to go along with that lighter.”

And every scene is dripping in old Hollywood fashions set in the glamorous world of golden age Los Angeles. The dialogue, costumes and setting make “Gangster Squad” worth watching.

Without those elements, the story is filled with needlessly graphic violence and one-liners that make you roll your eyes in disappointment.

I’m giving “Gangster Squad” a 2 ½ star rating. Plot, character and dialogue are somewhat lacking. But I’m highly recommending this film for the aestheticism alone.